Coronavirus: transport firms want mandatory face masks

Coronavirus: transport firms want mandatory face masks
© Belga

A number of public transport companies in Belgium are seeking to make the use of face masks and protective gear mandatory once the country begins easing out of the coronavirus lockdown.

The use of face masks would ensure appropriate travel conditions as the gradual return of commuters to the network will make it more difficult to enforce social distancing.

Railway company SCNB/NMBS is looking to make face masks mandatory not only in vehicles but also in stations and in platforms, CEO Sophie Dutordoir told De Standaard.

"As soon as the number of travellers increases, we will not be able to guarantee the necessary distance," Dutordoir said. "I am in favour of requiring individual protective equipment on trains, platforms and stations."

An average of 90,000 commuters uses the rail network daily a figure which has been consistently rising during the past three years.

Flanders' public transport operator De Lijn is looking in a similar direction ahead of the reopening of schools, according to Bruzz.

"Our largest group of travellers during peak hours are students from secondary and higher education," Director-General Roger Kesteloot said.

Kesteloot said that his company would advocate for rules that combine the mandatory use of face masks with a relaxation of social distancing rules, which currently require people to stand at least 1.5 metres apart.

A spokesperson for STIB said that the company was waiting for a decision to be announced during Friday's National Security Council meeting, where rules for public transport are set to be discussed.

"At this point, the decision will be taken by authorities," spokesperson Françoise Ledune told The Brussels Times, adding that Brussels' transport operator was currently in talks discussing "different scenarios."

The SNCB's Dutordoir said that they were also expecting answers from the meeting on Friday, from which they expected "clear rules, with as little room for interpretation as possible."

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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